Byline: Steve Best
Sandy Moore is this year's Fairfax Media/AdMedia Agency of The Year Awards best chief executive. The awards measure the business performance of the country's agencies, not their creative output as most industry awards do. Agencies' creative prowess is, of course, measured as one core performance criteria. Great product is, after all, an important indicator of smart people management strategies.
This year, DDB also took out the Agency of the Year Award. It is one of New Zealand's largest agencies and, as such, has won the usual collection of industry creative accolades. But, says Moore, an advertising agency is subjected to the same pressures to deliver profits, manage staff, return shareholders a dividend, win new business and deal with market conditions.
"We are first and foremost a business," he says, and DDB is structured and organised like any other business -- with some anomalies. "The major difference I can see is that there's no product, there's no stock, there's no inventory, there's no manufacturing. It's all about managing people. An agency, even one this size doing hundreds of millions of dollars in turnover, is actually a quite simple business. There are people costs, the largest proportion of the outgoings. Rent and the rest of [the overheads] are not much. It's all about the management of people."
DDB is well structured with rigorously prepared business plans, a marketing plan and performance forecasts.
The Group comprises six companies. "We break the budgeting and business plans down by department as well as an overall business plan," says Moore. The Group plan is "taken to our American partners -- we have 30 percent local equity and they have 70 percent.
"We present it to them and agree on what we think is achievable, taking into account local market conditions." Then Moore and his team work to deliver on it.
To achieve the agency's goals Moore must lead a staff whose characteristics are, he thinks, unique in the commercial world. They are, for instance, required to deal with failure on a daily basis. Their work may be rejected for any number of reasons -- too risque, too derivative, too political, too confrontational. "Creatives are an unusual bunch and I think (their idiosyncrasies) must be inherent to people who are creative or artistic. They seem to be extremely conservative in their own life, very nervous, most of them are introverted, which is opposite to what you might expect. They're extraordinarily resistant to change.
"Advertising is an ego-driven business. Perhaps that's because without an ego you don't survive. Guys live on the ability to think up something and try and sell it. Others are trying to do the same thing, so the workplace is very competitive -- both between agencies and within our own company. People want to get their work made and shown. You want to perform and you want to get your work out there. You want to be as good as you can be in the category and you want people to see it and like it. …